When I describe Pasadena to my family and friends back East, first I say it’s full of natural and human-made beauty. I love the mountains, the arroyo, the flora and fauna and the many architectural styles spanning Pasadena’s rich history. And then, with heartfelt appreciation, I say it is an incredibly philanthropic and animal-loving community.
Not long after I moved to Pasadena in 2019, I was fortunate to see all these characteristics of our community exemplified in a Pasadena Humane event that is celebrating its 24th year this month, the Wiggle Waggle Walk & Run.
One of my Poppy Peak neighbors, Tomoko Watanabe, is gearing up for what she estimates to be her 18th (!!!) time walking for the animals. Along with her canine soulmate and Pasadena Humane alum, Rocky, Tomoko will be one of more than a thousand local animal lovers walking or running around the iconic Rose Bowl next Sunday to raise funds to support the animals.
Tomoko loves being part of an event that rallies the entire community to save the lives of animals. “It’s wonderful to see the fundraisers, volunteers, staff, walkers, and especially the dogs who were previously adopted from Pasadena Humane, all at once,” she shared. In her words, the event is “cheerful, good vibes — always.”
One of the driving forces behind Tomoko’s dedication to fundraising for the animals is her belief in our organization’s mission to help animals. “I am touched by the patience and kindness given to the animals at the shelter,” she said. Especially “the vulnerable ones who need us most.”
Tomoko knows this through firsthand experience. She has been a dedicated Pasadena Humane volunteer for the past 18 years. From walking dogs to fostering kittens and everything in between, Tomoko is always willing to help where needed most, whether working directly with the animals or helping to raise funds for their care.
This year, Tomoko is walking as part of Poppy Peak Pets, a team of supporters in our San Rafael neighborhood in Pasadena. The team was formed in 2020, giving its members a unifying and meaningful purpose during the pandemic’s months of isolation and fear.
The “kindness of neighbors, volunteer friends, adopters, long-time donors, family and friends, near and far, supporting the team was the highlight of a terrifying year,” Tomoko recalled.
Now that the event is back in person for the second year, there is much to celebrate. Tomoko encourages her fellow animal lovers to “Join Us!” on this year’s big day. “If you like animals or absolutely love them, this event is for you.”
And for Tomoko, it’s not just about helping the animals. It’s about helping people as well.
“The true heroes of the shelter are the staff with their deep love of the animals,” she shared. “Let’s support them!”
There’s still time to make a difference for the animals. Registration is open for the 24th annual Wiggle Waggle Walk & Run on Sept. 18 at the beautiful Brookside at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.
You can sign up as an individual or join a team, with options for a one-mile or 5k walk (or run!) around the Rose Bowl. Plan for your family to have fun on the big day by enjoying a vendor village with goodies and giveaways for pets and people, a doggy costume contest, an agility course, food trucks, and more.
Register now at wigglewagglewalk.org. I look forward to seeing you there!
Dia DuVernet is president and CEO of Pasadena Humane.
This blog post originally appeared as a column in the Pasadena Star-News on September 9, 2022.